Shrimps with bottle gourd, lau chingri, is a nostalgic dish for me.
Shrimps for me are the best type of prawns that you could put on a plate. Each time and every time hands on my heart. What I call shrimps are these beautiful juicy prawns that add the most spectacular flavour to curry and in themselves have the most amazing of taste.
When I lived in Birmingham, these shrimps would always find themselves home from the Bull Ring fish market where the abundant selection of seafood used to mesmerise me as a child. I would go with my dad and in later years my brother or myself and bring back bags of shrimps for the freezer. They were really popular in our house because of the tremendous amount of flavour they would pack into a dish, curry or otherwise and mostly reminiscent of the fresh shrimps back in India.
When I moved to Bradford in the early 90s, I struggled to find these. They were neither available in the supermarkets or the tiny weenie fish market in town. So with each trip to Birmingham I would come back with a bag to freeze. My siblings would bring them up whenever stocks ran low.
The last few years I discovered that my local Morrisons and Asda do some frozen in trays. I was absolutely delighted! Made up as for me shrimps are on the top of the scale every time.
Yes I know, it’s a cumbersome task shelling them. Trust me it’s not my favourite part of cooking with them but in my opinion the effort is worth it every time. There are some dishes where they don’t require shelling but truth be told there is so much flavour in the shells. I wouldn’t mind keeping them on but in my family the kids find it a nuisance to peel when it’s on the plate. But for me, I don’t mind the shelling because I make a beautiful stock with the shells which I use in my curries. This is absolutely optional if you don’t want to and you can use water but trust me, when that stock reduces down and you add it to the curry it already flavours the dish even before the shrimps go in.
I will have the recipe for the stock at the bottom of the page for those that want to use it. It’s a very simple one for this curry.
But mind, it does make a delicious seafood broth or fish stew with other additions if kept frozen to use at a later date.
Shrimps match well with many of our Bengali vegetables. I find uses for them in international dishes too.
Today I’ve teamed them up in a Bengali classic Lau Chingri. This is essentially shrimps with bottle gourd. But with the addition of the herb dill. So this dish is Sholpa diye Lau Chingri. Shrimps with bottle gourd and dill.
There is something about the herb dill that makes Bengalis world go round. I don’t know whether it’s the amazing flavour that it adds to curries or how it elevates a wonderful dish to absolute gorgeousness! Whatever is, there is magic in that herb!
I forgot to weigh the shrimps today, although I kept telling myself I must do it but it was a whole tray that I purchased from Morrisons.
1 large bottle gourd sliced as below in pics
1 tray or shrimps, shelled
shell stock optional
2 med onions finely chopped
2 green chilis split
2 green chilis chopped
5 cloves of garlic minced
quarter cup of oil
1 teaspoons of chili powder
2 tablespoons of cumin
1 teaspoon of turmeric
2 teaspoons of salt
half a teaspoon of sugar
half a cup of chopped fresh dill
1 fresh tomato chopped
Slice the bottle gourd as below.
Heat your oil and add the onions and chopped green chillies to your pan. Add the chopped garlic, salt and sugar. The salt helps release the water to help soften and sugar add a subtle sweetness and aid caremalisation of onions.
Once the onions start taking on a little colour add the chopped tomatoes. Continue to cook untill the tomatoes are broken down and the oil has split.
Now add some shell stock or hot water, about half a cup and allow this to cook covered on a low flame.
Stir occasionally to ensure nothing sticks untill the onions and tomatoes have broken down and the oil has separated again.
Now add your powdered spices to the onions. Fry this for a few minutes on a low flame so that the spices are coated and oils are released.
Now add a good ladle of the prawn shell stock or hot water.
Allow this to reduce again till the liquid evaporates again and oil splits. You will start to smell the aroma of prawns if using shell stock.
Now add the bottle gourd to the spices. Stir well and cover.
Let it cook on a medium/high flame till the guord softens and and it’s cooked in the spices. It may release some liquid but you cook this off untill the guord looks glossy from liquid being evaporated.
When you see the oil releasing at sides of the pan then you need to add some more shell stock or hot water.
Add enough to to just emerse the guord and now let this cook your guord until you have little liquid and your guord is cooked soft and nearly disintegrating. You should have oil floating to the top.
At this stage add the peeled shrimps and your sliced green chillies.
Cook till the shrimps are done, about 5 mins so the flavours are well incorporated and infused. You should have little liquid now.
Add the fresh dill. Stir in and cook for 2 minutes and switch of the flame. Your shrimps with bottle gourd and dill is ready to serve!
For me it just has to be served with steaming hot rice!
How to make Shell stock:
Take a pan, add a little oil and fry the drained shells. You will notice a slight change in colour to a deeper salmon colour.
Now add 2 cups of water. Bring to boil and simmer till reduced by half.
Drain into another vessel and use the retained stock for the curry.
If you want a deeper flavoured stock add a clove of chopped garlic and few slices of onion when frying the shells.
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